Belongs to: chats

Compare with: whinchat

Stonechat Saxicola torquata

Best time to see: all year

Key facts

Handsome heathland bird, breeding along the Inner Thames

Habitat: generally heathland, but in Essex estuary marshland

Once common resident throughout Britain but now very localised, breeding mainly in the south and west


Plump round-headed bird with black head in m, grey-brown in f; white rump and wing patches in flight; 12–13 cm

Perches openly on top of bushes or on wires, before pouncing on its prey on the ground

Move about in pairs all year, feeding mainly on insects, some worms and spiders


Nest is a cup of moss, grass and hair close to ground

Usually two broods April to June; 5–6 light blue eggs, freckled brown

Once thought to be sedentary, they are now believed to move elsewhere for the winter, probably to other coastal sites

© Bill Varney

© Leslie Borg